With the recent 15th Anniversary of Get Rich or Die Tryin, it was perfect timing for once-dominant rapper 50 Cent to hit Australia with a brief but welcome tour. Yes, musically 50 is nowhere near as relevant as he used to be, but even non-fans would agree that Curtis Jackson is one of the most indelible and influential figures of our time when it comes to both hip-hop and pop. That was my position – aside from “Blood Hood”, I’m not big on any of the tracks from his mega-smash studio debut – and it pretty much still is, though it’s hard to deny someone who can still sell out an enormous open-air amphitheatre even when they are well past their prime.
It was a big blow to the tour that G-Unit’s most adept emcee Lloyd Banks was no longer joining the crew Down Under, but 50 was still joined by a few specials guests. Tony Yayo was on stage assisting throughout the set, as both a hype-man and a solo artist, and Brooklyn’s Uncle Murda was right there with him. The crowded stage combined with the poor sound didn’t necessarily help the performance, but hype was most certainly at an all time high as the rowdy crowd ate up every second that 50 was on stage.
Unfortunately, the support acts of Baker Boy and A.B. Original didn’t quite receive the same level of enthusiasm, despite more than earning the praise. Baker Boy, one of the most infectiously energetic rappers in Australia right now, didn’t let his inexperience overwhelm him at what was undeniably his largest gig to date. He was thrown into the deep end here, and though he only has a handful of material to pack into a set, he proved that he can work remarkably well in a festival-esque setting.
A.B. Original, much more experienced on a stage this size, delivered a break-neck performance featuring some superb guests from Australian musicians including Dan Sultan. It’s clear Briggs and Trials have nothing left to prove as far as emceeing goes, and the way they work so well together just adds to the fiery, kinetic energy that kept the set flowing from end to end. Though Sultan sounded a bit rusty on vocals of “Dumb Things” and “January 26”, it was those two hits that made the big finale a testament to how deserving A.B Original are when it comes to their rightful place at the forefront of the radically changing face of Australian hip hop.
50 doesn’t get enough credit for the lasting influence that clearly runs through the hip-hop of today. He wasn’t the first to introduce a heavy dose of sardonic melodies into “gangster rap” but was most certainly one of the most successful, filling the radio with tracks like “Wanksta”, “21 Questions” and “If I Can’t” after testing the water with a slew of mixtapes which heralded a new form of Mafioso rap – one that you could sing a long too while still absorbing the embedded bravado.
Bad Boy perfected this years prior with tongue-in-cheek cuts like Biggie‘s “Playa Hater” and Mase‘s “Jealous Guys”; 50 uniquely took that and blended it with tough, street-talking raps to birth a style so strong it propelled him to the top of the charts to knock the then-king, Ja Rule, off so hard that it essentially ended a career – one that has never recovered.
Those melodies are what 50’s biggest hits live or die on and unfortunately they don’t translate even half as well live as they do in the studio. At times it would sound like Jackson was straining, and that’s no real surprise for tracks like “Many Men (Wish Death)” and “Candy Shop”, which have melodies a lot bigger and wider than his voice can handle. On the other hand, when it came to rapping 50 didn’t miss a beat, a penchant for the slow-but-steady flow that fuelled highlights like “I Get Money” and “What Up Gangsta”.
Yayo was given room to squeeze in his own “Pimpin”, sandwiched next to 50’s own “P.I.M.P”, and Murda got his shot in with “Cam’Ron Voice”, which was a nice touch to break up the set. Though the crowd was relatively flat for both tracks, instead only really coming alive when 50’s biggest hits were on deck, like “Just A Lil’ Bit” and “In Da Club” and the two Game/50 Cent chart-smashers “How We Do” and “Hate It Or Love It”.
It’s hard to see much in 50’s music anymore. Most of it sounds incredibly dated (his new track, “Crazy” with PNB Rock, made for a terrible set-opener) but pure nostalgia often trumps a good performance – which probably explains why despite the relatively flat set, it was still well worth heading along to see “Fiddy”.
The reviewer attended this show on February 10th.
Photo: Michelle Grace Hunder, shot in Melbourne.